How to Kick-Start Healthy Habits One Step At a Time

I am so inspired by the runners of the Boston Marathon. The dedication and determination it takes to complete the training and then the actual 26.2 mile run is just awesome!

Right before COVID-19, my daughter Alissa and I ran our first half marathon together. This year she completed her first marathon. I biked the course, stopping to cheer her on as she went. Alissa is an amazing athlete, having also completed her first Century Ride (a 100 mile bike ride) this month! I'm a proud mama for sure :)

When my kids were small, I made the choice to teach them an appreciation for physical activity and an understanding of the important role it plays in good health. Of course I also encouraged them to fuel their bodies with the right nutrients, but that felt like a bigger learning curve - especially because I was on my own healing journey with food at the time. Now, many years later, with a much healthier body and a plant-based food business under my belt, I know so much more about the powerful fuel that nourishing foods can provide. 

I also know from experience that finding the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat for your specific body can be challenging. We all have different needs and those needs change as we get older. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so I encourage everyone to do what I did: experiment with your ratios and journal about how you feel as you go. Your body will actually tell you if you’re eating the right things! You just have to listen, or rather, pay close attention to the sensations and signals you feel. Yes, this can certainly be difficult. Especially with all the noise coming from friends, family, so-called “diet experts” and all those companies pushing their drinks, powders, supplements and magic potions on you. Talk about confusing!

Here’s my advice to cut through all that chatter: simply begin with organic, whole, minimally processed, plant-based foods as the foundation of a healthy diet. Don’t worry about which magic pill to take that will “fix” all your problems. (Spoiler alert: there isn’t one!) Just steadily incorporate more fresh, whole foods into your diet everyday, and watch as some of those issues start to fade on their own. Once you get the hang of that, start to experiment with different ratios of protein to carbs to fat. 

Personally, I’ve found that my body feels the best with a little more protein and fat than carbs.  Carbohydrates are still an important part of my diet, of course, but I don't need as much. I fill my plate with leafy greens like wilted kale, collards or spinach (all available this time of year at the farmer’s market) then I add some healthy fats and protein in the form of nuts and seeds. Organic hemp and chia seeds are my favorites for lots of protein. Sometimes soft boiled eggs or, once in a blue moon, wild caught fish hit the spot, along with a side of starchy vegetables or pseudo grains like amaranth. These meals provide me with just the right balance of protein and carbohydrates.  

With running as my exercise of choice now, I’m also careful to actively replenish my electrolytes - these are the minerals you lose through perspiration. Even if you don’t consider yourself an athlete, electrolyte balance is important for you too. But instead of stocking up on sugary purple sports drinks, you can get the electrolytes you need from whole, plant-based foods. For example, dissolve a high quality, unprocessed salt like Celtic or Himalayan in some water and you’ll get plenty of sodium and other trace minerals. Coconut water and collard greens are also excellent sources of electrolytes! Check out this article to learn more.

As the cooler Autumn weather sets in, it’s a great time to get outside and move your body. Go for a neighborhood walk, take a jog, or maybe find a beautiful hike over the weekend. Breathing in that fresh air will invigorate you and make you feel like a champion on it’s own! Then, when you return home, use that energy to rekindle the nourishing eating habits your body craves. Because just like a walk or a jog, a healthy diet starts one step at a time.